The world is mourning the death of former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who passed away after a short illness, on Saturday. Annan, 80, was the seventh man to take the helm of the global organization.
The current UN chief, Antonio Guterres hailed him as “a guiding force for good” and a “Proud Son of Africa who became a global champion for peace and all humanity.” Kofi Annan was born in Kumasi, Ghana, on 8 April 1938 and served as UN Secretary-General for two consecutive five-year terms, beginning in January 1997.
“Like so many, I was proud to call Kofi Annan a good friend and mentor… He provided people everywhere with a space for dialogue, a place for problem-solving and a path to a better world. In these turbulent and trying times, he never stopped working to give life to the values of the United Nations Charter. His legacy will remain a true inspiration for all us,” Guterres said in a statement.
Guterres added that “in many ways, Kofi Annan was the United Nations. He rose through the ranks to lead the organization into the new millennium with matchless dignity and determination.”
Annan joined the UN system in 1962 as an administrative and budget officer with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, rising to hold senior-level posts in areas such as budget and finance, and peacekeeping.
From his beginnings in Geneva, Annan held UN posts in places such as Ethiopia, Egypt, and the former Yugoslavia and at Headquarters in New York. Following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, he was tasked with facilitating the repatriation of more than 900 international staff as well as the release of Western hostages. He later led the first UN team negotiating with Iraq on the sale of oil to fund purchases of humanitarian aid.
Annan used his office to advocate for human rights, the rule of law, development and Africa, and he worked to bring the UN closer to people worldwide by forging ties with civil society, the private sector, and other partners. As Secretary-General, he also galvanized global action to fight HIV/AIDS and combat terrorism.
In his farewell statement to the UN General Assembly in December 2006, Kofi Annan expressed emotion over leaving what he called “this mountain with its bracing winds and global views.”
Although the job had been difficult and challenging, he admitted that it was also thrillingly rewarding at times. “And while I look forward to resting my shoulder from those stubborn rocks in the next phase of my life, I know I shall miss the mountain,” he said.
However, Annan did not rest, taking on the role of UN Special Envoy for Syria in the wake of the conflict which began in March 2011. He also chaired an Advisory Commission established by Myanmar in 2016 to improve the welfare of all people in Rakhine state, home to the minority Rohingya community.
His homeland, Ghana, established an international peacekeeping training center that bears his name, which was commissioned in 2004.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis said in a statement that no one contributed more to the creation and ongoing support of the Global Fund than Kofi Annan.
“He called on the international community to create our partnership in the early 2000s during his time as Secretary-General and made the first financial contribution to the Global Fund. He called the battle against AIDS his “personal priority,” the statement says.
Officials from across the UN system have been paying tribute to the man who led the global body for a decade. The flag at United Nations Headquarters in New York is flying at half-mast this Saturday as the Organization marks the death of former Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the outgoing UN High Commissioner for Human Rights says Kofi Annan is simply “irreplaceable”. The UN rights chief recalled a man who was ever courageous and through direct in speech, never discourteous.
“Kofi was humanity’s best example, the epitome, of human decency and grace. In a world now filled with leaders who are anything but that, our loss, the world’s loss becomes even more painful,” Zeid said in a statement.
Miroslav Lajčák, President of the UN General Assembly, remembered the Nobel laureate as “a strong believer in dialogue” and staunch defender of peace, development and human rights.
“He dedicated his life to making the world a better, more peaceful and just place for all people. And in many ways, he is a symbol for the shared values of the United Nations,” he said.
Inga Rhonda King, the newly appointed President of the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), offered her condolences to Annan’s family, and to all those who had worked with or known the former leader.
“His contribution to the world was immense. His leadership was compassionate and his legacy consequential,” she stated.
Kofi Annan was committed to, in his words, “bringing the United Nations closer to the people”; forging partnerships with civil society, the business sector, and others. UN agencies and their chiefs are using technology to further this goal, taking to social media to express their sadness over his death.
In a post on Twitter, William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) lamented the loss of “one of the greatest leaders of our times.”
He described Annan as a dear friend and “champion of justice and peace who, even at the moment of death, was engaged in the search for solutions to conflicts in many parts of the world.”
UNICEF chief Henrietta H. Fore also praised Annan as a lifelong servant of peace, saying on Twitter that he was particularly concerned about the future – the world our children and their children will inherit.
Also on Twitter, David Beasley, head of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said Annan had strongly supported the agency’s mission and was an ally in the fight against hunger. “We all must keep his legacy alive, working to break the cycle of hunger and conflict so people can live in peace,” he said.
For her part, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay called Annan ‘a great defender of peace,” and added that “he was the very embodiment of peace and of a resolutely modern vision of the United Nations.”